Lebanon and Israel will today start US-mediated talks over their decades-long maritime dispute.
The main objective of the process will be to delineate the borders of the two countries’ exclusive economic zones, as both prepare for hydrocarbon exploration projects in the Mediterranean.
The demarcation of the maritime border is particularly crucial for Lebanon as it grapples with a near-absolute economic collapse, since parts of the disputed territory are expected to contain gas reserves. If the dispute is resolved, allowing for French oil giant Total to proceed with explorations on behalf of Lebanon, the discovery of reserves could serve as a massive economic stimulus.
Still, the prospect of peace between the two countries will be difficult to reach as long as there is no agreement on the land border. Likewise, Hezbollah’s grip on the cogs of the Lebanese political system pulls the country into Iran’s sphere of influence, making any reconciliation with Israel difficult.
Paralysed by political stalemate since failing to form a new government and facing crippling debt, Lebanon will be much more open toward resolving the dispute now compared with previous attempts, even if Hezbollah will likely need to bear concessions for talks to proceed.
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Max is Foreign Brief's Chief Executive Officer. A Latin America specialist, Max is an expert in regional political and economic trends, focusing particularly on the Southern Cone.